New Yorkers struggling to pay fines and fees associated with traffic violations may soon be able to avoid having their license suspended for non-payment. On Dec. 31, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing drivers to set up payment plans if they can't afford an entire fine in a lump sum. The law takes effect on March 31.
The goal of the bill, known as the Driver's License Suspension Reform Act, is to reduce the number of drivers who end up with a suspended license or vehicle registration due to unpaid traffic tickets.
Previously, non-payment of non-criminal traffic-related fines and fees, often due within weeks of a conviction, would result in an automatic driver's license suspension. Courts had little ability to consider a driver's ability to pay the fine. This would often cause further financial hardship by hindering one’s ability to get to and from work. It also imposed personal burdens, limiting the ability to care for children by driving them to school or doctor appointments, or even to run essential errands like grocery shopping.
When the bill takes effect, all drivers whose licenses and/or registrations have been suspended due to non-payment will have those suspensions lifted. Any additional penalties related to non-payment, including suspension termination fees, will also be waived. This includes those who have had their license suspended more than once for failing to pay multiple tickets.
Once the suspensions are lifted, each person will be offered the opportunity to enter a payment schedule equal to 2% of a person’s monthly income or $10, whichever is greater. In addition, judges will now have the discretion to waive part or all of the fines, surcharges, or other fees owed in the “interest of justice.” There is no guidance yet on how this can be exercised.
The new law will not change other ways in which a person could have a license suspended, such as accruing too many points, driving without auto insurance, or driving drunk. Similarly, people can also have their license suspended after three speeding convictions (or two work zone speeding convictions) within 18 months.
Driving with a suspended license is a criminal offense in New York State and can result in up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 for a first offense. Subsequent offenses increase the penalties substantially.
If you or someone you love has had a license suspended for any reason other than non-payment, or who has been charged with driving while suspended, contact an attorney right away for help. The lawyers at Rosenblum Law are experienced traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email or call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation about your case.